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MILITARY

DARPA's robot pack mule takes a stroll

  • A prototype of the LS3 'robot mule' shown off at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Fort Myer, Va., by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.DARPA

  • During a demonstration of two LS3 prototypes, Boston Dynamics LS3 chief engineer Kevin Blankespoor discussed capabilities with (left to right) DARPA director Dr. Arati Prabhakar, Marine Corps Warfighting Lab commanding general Brig. Gen. Mark R. Wise and Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James F. Amos.DARPA

Meet the newest member of the U.S. military.

On Monday, military research group DARPA showed off its “Legged Squad Support System (LS3)” -- military speak for a robotic pack mule. These particular robot prototypes that can run, haul gear for soldiers, follow the leader and so on.

“We’ve refined the LS3 platform and have begun field testing against requirements of the Marine Corps,” said Army Lt. Col. Joe Hitt, DARPA program manager. “The vision for LS3 is to combine the capabilities of a pack mule with the intelligence of a trained animal.”

'It combines the capabilities of a pack mule with the intelligence of a trained animal.'

- Army Lt. Col. Joe Hitt, DARPA program manager

In a demonstration before the the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James F. Amos, and DARPA Director, Arati Prabhakar. the robomule strutted its stuff -- activities it could one day carry out for a squad of Marines or Soldiers.

The goal of the LS3 program is to demonstrate that a legged robot can unburden dismounted squad members by carrying their gear, autonomously following them through rugged terrain, and interpreting verbal and visual commands, the agency said.

The pack mule robot isn't the only DARPA creation breaking new ground.

A robot developed by the DARPA broke two records the agency announced last week. The Cheetah robot, which is the fastest "legged" robot in history, broke its own record of 18 mph when it reached 28.3 mph running on a treadmill.

The robot also broke the human speed record, beating sprinter Usain Bolt's peak speed record of 27.44 mph, which he set at the 2009 Berlin World Championships while setting the current 100 meter world record of 9.58 seconds.